Gus and Claire snuggling on the couch
While trying to figure out our plans for meeting up with Gus's side of our family over Thanksgiving, Steve and I talked about possibly inviting Claire to come down and spend Christmas with us. I knew it was a long shot, but figured that since she's still young, doesn't have a husband and kids, it'd be the best time to ask.
I sent her an email and asked about what she'd like to do for our November visit, and then also let her know that we wanted to invite her to come spend Christmas with us. All she had to do was get here and we'd take care of the rest. She took a few days to respond, but when she did, she said she'd love to come and spend the week with us. We were so excited.
You see, every time that we've ever gone to visit Gus's side of our family, there are always extended family members there too. We love seeing everyone and it's wonderful for them to have time to see Gus (and Hugh). But Claire has never just had time alone with Gus. We thought that maybe by coming down, she'd really love the time with him without any time constraints or by having to share him with anyone.
She arrived on December 20th, and we had her take the MARTA (Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) from the airport to the farthest station north and then we picked her up. She'd never been out of the state of Michigan and had never been on a plane before. She was nervous about traveling, but she said it wasn't that bad. :-)
Gus was beyond excited to see her. His last day of school for the winter break was Friday and so he got home from school and before he knew it, it was time to go and pick up Claire from the MARTA station.
He was keeping watch
Waiting at the entrance/exit for Claire's train to arrive
Just when he was starting to think she was never going to arrive...
He spotted her!!
We stopped and picked up a pizza and took it home for dinner.The kids went to bed and then she and I stayed up and watched Pitch Perfect. We talked a little about things, but I didn't want to pry too much too soon. ;-)
On Saturday, we decided to take advantage of the warm temperatures and head to Zoo Atlanta. We have a family membership and love to go as often as possible. We picked the best day ever because it was overcast (scattered showers were predicted), but didn't rain until just as we were leaving. It was in the upper 60s and a gorgeous day!!
We enjoyed our time at the zoo and I loved seeing Gus so happy. Not only because he loves the zoo, but because he had Claire all to himself and he loved it. We came home and watched some movies since Claire had never seen some of the "classics" like The Breakfast Club or 16 Candles.
On Sunday, we went to church and it was fun to introduce Claire to Pastor Brian and our church. She and Steve went and grabbed bagels and coffee while I worked the Sunday School check in. We came home and watched football and she and Gus snuggled and played in the basement for a bit while I made dinner.
It was really important to me that she get to experience a typical routine around our house. I wanted her to be there for baths, bedtime, and naps. I wanted her to experience what we do each day, so that when she's at home, she can picture what we're doing. I think she enjoyed each minute that she had with both boys.
On Monday, she took Gus outside to play for a bit and they had a great time. I only stayed out for a few minutes to take pictures and then I wanted to give them some alone time.
We had Hugh's one year appointment on Monday morning, so Claire came with us. Hugh's pediatrician was excited to meet her. :-)
Monday night, I had a surprise planned for Claire. As you know, I've got some truly amazing friends. One of my friends, Kylie, has an incredible entertainment room in her basement. I had mentioned to her that Claire was coming for a visit and that I wished we had some MOMS Club things planned that I could bring her to, so she could meet some of my friends. Kylie offered her home, and said she'd host a movie night. She asked what movie, and I knew that Elf was Claire's favorite, so I suggested Elf. We posted it on FB and invited a bunch of friends to come over and it was set for 7:30pm on Monday the 23rd.
I told Claire that she had to wear her pajamas... but I didn't tell her anything else. She was surprised and I think she had a great time. She was able to meet six of my friends and we had a wonderful time at the movies!
On Tuesday, we had a lot to do. It was Christmas Eve and I still needed to wrap all the gifts! However, I couldn't do it until after the boys were in bed. Steve went out and grabbed bagels and coffee and we stayed in watching Christmas movies and cartoons.
I had a nail appointment and while I was gone Gus and Claire made and decorated a rice crispy train (I bought it specifically for him to make with Claire while she was here). They had a great time and then they read a little together.
At 3:00 we left for the Children's Christmas Eve service at church. Let me start by saying that I was told that ALL of the children in the church were invited and encouraged to participate in the service as either shepherds or angels. So when we got there, the kids had just finished rehearsing. Steve was ushering, so we had to be there a bit early. When it was time to start, Pastor Brian announced that ALL the children were invited to come up with the shepherds and angels when it was time.
When it came time, I sent Gus up with Logan, and to my surprise, they were the ONLY two that went up. It immediately looked like they were crashing the party. They started off really well... they knelt down by Mary and were quietly sitting there, but then Gus decided that it'd be more fun to jump off the stairs. So he and Logan started jumping... and then the director lady came up to get them, and they were running from her. It was a nightmare and very embarrassing. Claire and Lesley were laughing, I was not sure if I should laugh or cry. Finally, Gus found a feather (came off one of the angels) and brought it to me... I was able to grab him and keep him with me. Poor Lesley, Logan was up there by himself and decided to spin around and do donuts. LOL
Kneeling... so well behaved at this time
Bring on the jumping
Getting a talkin' to
At one point, the lady in the black told Gus to come off the stage and go sit down, and he pointed at the seats and said, "YOU go sit down!" o_O
After church, we headed to IHOP for dinner and then we went out looking at Christmas lights. It was fun!! We got home and put the boys in their Christmas jammies and then they went to sleep. I brought down all the gifts to be wrapped and Claire and Steve and I wrapped gifts while watching A Christmas Story.
Christmas morning was awesome. I loved seeing the joy on Gus's face when he saw what Santa brought him. Claire held Hugh and helped him open his gifts and it was fun to watch her with him.
A few weeks before, I took Gus and Hugh to the pottery place and had them paint something for Claire for Christmas. Hugh made her a sign with a quote from Elf and Gus made her a "C" for her room. We bought her a locket from South Hill Designs and filled it with a G U and an S and then a heart with blue feet prints (got the charms from Origami Owl). It looked awesome and I thought she'd love it, but I don't think she did. :-( She didn't wear it, but maybe she was waiting until she got home to wear it. I don't know... I just know that I thought it was really cool and looked awesome (I am 17 years older than her, so who knows).
After we had breakfast (Hashbrown Casserole, baby!!), we watched the Disney Parks Christmas
Commercial Parade and then watched more Christmas movies before dinner.
We didn't go anywhere on Thursday... but Gus and Claire and Hugh played in the basement for a long time while Steve and I worked on our will (oy).
She headed back home on Friday and Gus was very sad to see her go. When we dropped her off at the airport, he cried and didn't stop for quite some time.
What I love most about our open adoption is that Gus and Hugh will always know where they come from. They'll always have access and contact with their biological family members and to me, this is what's best. I can't imagine not knowing where my roots are. If my parents told me today, that I was adopted... it wouldn't change my love for them. But I would definitely want to know my biological parents.
It's funny to hear the reactions of people when they hear that Claire came to stay with us for a week. Even people in my family have interesting reactions. By opening our hearts to adoption, we agreed to do what was best for our children, and not necessarily what was best for anyone else. We aren't heroes for opening our home to Gus's birth mother. It was no different from inviting my parents or Steve's dad and Sue Ann down... she's part of our family, and we wanted to welcome her into our home for the holidays.
Open adoption is something that confuses a lot of people. They don't understand how we do it. "Do what?" I often ask. "How do you just let another person into your family?" It confuses me at times, because it's just what we do... I can't explain it. We are a family because of the choices that two women and a man made. They are family and will always be family. They're connected to my kids in a way that I'll never know, and I'm connected to my kids in a way that they'll never know. Together, our kids are loved by so many and have the best of both worlds.
I'm so thankful that we had the chance to spend a week with Claire and getting to know her better. There were a few times when it was a little awkward and strange, but only because we're older and not in touch with what's cool or hip these days. She didn't seem to mind (I think she was amused by our uncoolness- lol), and I think she had a great time with us. I hope she'll come back again for another visit. I know Gus and Hugh would love it!!